FEATURE22 August 2016

The personal touch

Data analytics Features Trends UK

Personality scoring, which uses psycholinguistics and text analytics to predict online behaviour from social media activity, is combining with social listening and big data to improve personalisation, says James Blake of Hello Soda.  

Tailored crop

Before the internet and mobile technology revolutionised consumerism, enabling goods and services to be bought at the click of a button from any location at any time, companies enjoyed personal relationships with their customers forged through simple face-to-face interaction and conversations.

As our online shopping experience has advanced, retailers and consumers have both reaped the rewards, but the relationship between both parties has suffered too. Fewer face-to-face encounters has led to a less individualised service for the customer and fewer updates on changes in circumstances and life events for the company.

Today, customers readily provide personal details – such as email addresses, phone numbers or their date of birth – to businesses in return for offers and exclusive deals or just to access the service or product. Most people don’t mind being marketed to (who doesn’t love a 20% off food voucher?) but it can get annoying when you receive hundreds of irrelevant emails promoting products or services that you have zero interest in.

Frustrated with poorly targeted marketing, customers are increasingly demanding a more personalised approach and for a tailored service to meet their specific and changeable needs. In the same way that customers prefer to speak to a customer service representative over the phone rather than receiving automated messages, they also miss a certain degree of personal interaction and understanding of them as an individual when it comes to buying goods and services.

Thankfully, technology has caught up with the increase in demand for personalisation. Real-time data derived using big data analytics tools allows businesses to gain unique and valuable insights into consumers, enabling them to tailor products, offers and communications.

When customers are presented with a bespoke customer experience, from information right down to the products, services and offers they receive, customer retention can increase by 5%. We have reached a point in the digital age where there is so much data available that in order to derive meaningful insights, businesses must find the right tools and the right focus.

Until now, businesses have been focusing too much on social listening. While social listening tools do give insight into consumer behaviour, they do so in a way that tends to reflect trends and enable business decisions to be made based on collective information.

Think of social listening as the very surface level of the process of gaining insight into consumer behaviour. It literally skims the surface, monitoring social media channels to capture mentions of a brand, topic, competitor etc. Big data analytics tools go beyond this and analyse tens of thousands of data points, including social media and third-party consumer data, to provide much deeper insights and real-time information about consumers individually in order to enable more informed business decisions.

Social listening discovers ‘what’; big data analytics tools discover ‘why’ and ‘how’ as well. It also ensures companies don’t miss important life events or changes, such as mentions of new employment, changes to payday, holidays, marriage, moving house or a new baby.

By using technology to connect with consumers, you can better understand the consumer, their motivations and use this to predict what they want or need next, rather than relying on what they bought last, or what other people in that age-group and location are buying which is simply not accurate or personal enough in the new world we all live in.

Taking this a step further, personality scoring is a particularly new field of customer profiling, centred around the utilisation of psycholinguistics and text analytics to predict a person’s online personality based on their social media activity. This can give a limited but useful idea of where the consumer falls on each of the big five personality traits that can act supportively alongside consumer interests and life events (marriage, children, buying a home etc), to help brands and businesses better understand how to target them.

While knowing that they enjoy surfing and have an upcoming beach holiday to Australia can help businesses better predict what to target consumers with (such as bikinis/ swim shorts, sunglasses, and travel insurance), personality scores can help you predict how to target them.

For example, if an individual is high scoring in ‘conscientiousness', they are more likely to appreciate statistics, facts and comparative adverts. Those high in ‘agreeableness’ like to know what other people are using, and those high in ‘openness’ tend to change brands and products to find something new and exciting.

Open consumers are likely to be the first onboard when you launch a new product or service because of the novelty and innovation, but also the least likely to be brand loyal so may need additional rewards or incentives.

Real-time data can lead to instant benefits in customer acquisition, retention, and marketing. Analysis allows companies to target consumers with personalised communications and offers based on their preferences and understanding what consumers want in real-time. It can also predict when a consumer is most likely to be receptive to your advertising, how they’d prefer to be contacted, whether they like options or not, what products they might be interested in and when, as well as telling marketers when and to segment and target ads accordingly.

Targeting ads using insights into consumers’ interests, behaviours and lifestyle not only will improve conversion and click-through rates, it will enable businesses to save money by eliminating advertising to consumers who are unlikely to respond to your products, allowing businesses of any shape and size to benefit.

The ability to deliver a consistently personalised, on-brand experience for each individual customer, including customised offerings across the channels – is a key requirement for today’s consumers. And consumers craving a more personalised approach have shown they are willing to share information with companies to achieve this.

James Blake is CEO at Hello Soda